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Team Profile: Butler at Davidson Preview

by Matthew Stevens | February 18th, 2009

Saturday, noon EST, ESPN

Michael Buffer should do the pre-game introductions for this game, because the winner will be crowned the unofficial 2009 mid-major champion.

Butler head coach Brad Stevens may have the best perspective on this game and how it affects his team trying to make another second weekend of madness run.

Stevens told ESPN’s Andy Katz the good news was that the two teams probably won’t face each other now in the NCAAs.

Sophomore forward Matt Howard (who had offers to Indiana and Purdue but chose Butler, in order to play right away) leads the team in scoring with 13.8 ppg and is a player the Bulldogs rely on after coming off the bench last season.

“He does so many other things besides scoring to help us win,” Stevens said during the ESPNU college basketball podcast. “He really does a good job of leading by example and coming in with a mindset of being successful immediately.”

This year, the youth of the Butler team is carrying what had been a program that relied on seniors and fifth-year players.

“The thing I was most interested to see is how our guys would handle a packed house at Drake with three freshman starters,” Stevens said. “There are a ton of benefits to playing a lot of road games early in the season.”

Davidson is clearly known as the school Stephen Curry put on the cover of USA Today. Whether it’s getting other teammates involved or taking a bulk of the scoring output, the possible NBA Draft lottery pick is trying to replicate the Wildcats’ Elite Eight run of last year.

Curry, the nation’s leading scorer at 29.2 points per game, looked to have seriously hurt his left ankle in a 75-60 victory at Furman. According to the Associated Press, Davidson’s star guard was walking with a just a slight limp Monday, two days after what appeared to be a gruesome injury to his left ankle.
Curry was held out of practice but was confident he could return this week — even if he couldn’t bear to watch the replay of him turning his foot so badly his ankle scraped the floor.

“I saw it once and I turned it off,” Curry said. “A few of my friends who saw it on TV were asking me if I had broke something because it looked pretty bad. I keep telling them that it looks worse on TV than it really was.”

Being 36 percent of the team’s offense, Curry must be completely healthy to beat a balanced Butler squad.

Key Matchup: Butler head coach Brad Stevens vs. Davidson head coach Bob McKillop
This was a rebuilding year for Butler and Stevens has turned into another season with a national ranking and Horizon League regular season championship. It’s not like the Bulldogs have changed their style, but with a freshman point guard he signed late (Ronald Nored), Butler is consistently better on both ends than its opponent.

While Curry is great (see the previous paragraph), the reason Davidson was an intelligent decision for Steph was Bob McKillop. McKillop had made three postseason tournaments (two NCAAs and NIT) before Curry stepped on campus, and he will make the Dance long after Curry is coming off NBA benches.
Just sit back and watch how well both of these teams execute and how hard it will be for both teams to run their stuff throughout the game. Both of these great coaches will be prepared like it’s a critical league game.

Prediction: Davidson 81, Butler 79
In a game that will have numerous lead changes and great plays, Curry will remind a national television audience once again why he’s the best story in college basketball. If he gets the ball late in a tie game, don’t be surprised if he finds a wide open teammate under the hoop.

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